In In the Courts by Clyde Mooney

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Melbourne Magistrates’ Court has downgraded the murder charge and granted bail to the man accused of killing teenager Patrick Cronin with a punch to the head, in a brawl in Windy Creek Hotel.

Justice Karin Emerton has been hearing the committal hearing of 33-year-old Andrew William Lee, who presented himself to police two days after a brawl involving up to 30 men, during which 19-year-old Cronin sustained a blow to the back of the head.

The Court saw CCTV footage of the teenager trying to intervene with a friend involved with fighting two friends of Lee. As Cronin attempted to help his friend, Lee threw two punches, hitting both of them.

Cronin soon left with friends, complaining later of a headache and vomiting. He was taken to Royal Melbourne Hospital, but two days later his life-support was reluctantly switched off.

Lee’s lawyer, Mark Gumbleton, argued the strike to Cronin was unintentional, and not hard enough to have caused the damage that brought about the teenager’s eventual death. Gumbleton questioned the strength of the prosecution’s case, stating “it never will be murder”.

Forensic pathologist Yeliena Baber testified for the Court, disputing that the blow was not enough and stating the resulting haemorrhage was indicative of the hit seen in the footage. The autopsy found the punch connected with the “weakest part of the skull” where it is only one to four millimetres thick.

Manager of the hotel, Corbin Peever, spoke of the incident, involving local football teams, saying the venue quickly became overwhelmed.

“Within seconds it seemed like every young guy was out the front brawling.”

Justice Emerton also questioned the strength of the prosecution’s case, citing that it must prove Lee demonstrated murderous intent in the brawl.

The charge was downgraded from murder to manslaughter, and Lee made application for bail.

Justice Emerton noted that Lee had stable employment, family support and would face a lengthy delay before trial. Bail was granted on strict conditions, including Lee report daily to police and surrender his passport. His parents must pay a $350,000 surety.

Lee will face Court again in September.